Sara Pritchard's writing is different and intriguing, reminiscent of The Shop on Blossom Street and A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber in that its chapters are each devoted to a particular character’s story as touched by other characters in the larger circle of community. Lately is different, though, in that it connects at least eleven characters, rather than Macomber’s three major players per book. Pritchard’s eleven stories and their interconnections are nostalgic, realistic, almost mystic in their surrealism and their ability to bring up vivid images and recollections of the past. There are hints of Bob Dylan, rock and roll, the horrible Vietnam Conflict, childhood adventures, and family secrets.
The characters are memorable, odd, and attractive all at once in an offbeat way. “The Pink Motel” is particularly poignant and believable. The narrator, a middle-aged woman, begins to think about her father, who had wanted to join a circus his whole life, disappearing from Zanesville on his sales route. He is discovered later in a secret life with a carnival act and a new family, but she cannot mentally process this information.
The book is an energetic read, and the connections among the characters are neither forced nor too coincidental to be true. The connections are believable, and with each additional chapter read, something more about the characters evolves. By the end of the book, much of each character is understood, but a second reading is enjoyable and brings together more connections. In fact, this is a book that should be read and enjoyed several times.
Lately takes place in a make-believe combination of several Midwestern and Eastern states that the author calls "Pennsy-hi-o", much like Lilian Jackson Braun’s imagined Michigan-Wisconsin county located “400 miles north of everywhere” in the Cat Who… cozies. Pennsyl-hi-o is a great place and fascinating for its characters. Sisters throw a divorce party, a woman on vacation sees her departed father on a plane, and many other interesting, sad and happy events enchant the reader. Readers who want to try something different and entertaining would do well to pick up Lately.